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Do You “Mother” Your Employees?

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! In honor of the holiday, I am giving you absolution from parenting your employees. As their boss, you are allowed to set expectations, correct mistakes, mentor and motivate your employees but I advise you to:

  • Not ask questions about your employees’ personal lives that have no bearing on their performance at work and to not make unnecessary physical contact. You should maintain your employees’ private emotional and physical space—violating either may open you up to lawsuits and will probably make you vulnerable to federal and state penalties.
  • Not relinquish control of your business because you feel uncomfortable bossing a “friend.” It is easy to fall into the habit of making friends with employees. Sometimes that works out fine. But as many a family business has found, emotional ties complicate business relationships and can jeopardize a business’ finances, customer relationships and future.
  • Not try to fix employees’ problems. You can offer advice about substance abuse problems, eldercare, finding a used car or finding a daycare center. It is not your responsibility to actually drive the employee to the program, select the eldercare professional, shop for the car, or register at the daycare center.
  • Not develop a clear favorite among employees, someone you allow to come in late, take extra vacation or assume other privileges. By showing favoritism, regardless of your justifications, you are undermining morale and the policies set up in your employee handbook. What will you do when other employees start demanding the same privileges?
  • Not allow disrespectful behavior. Again, the fear of confrontation can lead to situations where employees freely challenge and even threaten the employer. While you want your employees to speak up if they have a problem or if they are uncomfortable with a decision you’ve made, you are the employer. They are free to disagree but respectfully and politely.

Many employers, especially in ultra-small companies, have trouble drawing boundaries with their employees. Open communications, signs of appreciation, clear feedback and follow-through on promises all help to establish and maintain good relations with your employee. But violating an employee’s privacy, allowing the employee too many or special privileges, becoming too involved in the employee’s life, and allowing disrespectful behavior are all signs of a problem with boundaries. Let me help put those appropriate boundaries in place.



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